How long is a police officer with a history of misconduct held accountable? Locally, the Toledo Police Department retains officer disciplinary records for a maximum of five years, according to a negotiated agreement between the City of Toledo and the Toledo Police Patrolman’s Association Local 10.
Varying levels of oversight
The level of oversight and the rules for maintaining police disciplinary records vary across cities and states. Some police unions have special contractual protections that prevent the public from viewing the records. In Minneapolis, where white police officer Derek Chauvin was filmed for minutes kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a handcuffed Black man, Police Department Internal Affairs Records are not easily accessible.
According to the Minneapolis Police Department Policy & Procedure Manual, concerning Internal Affairs Unit Records (2-107), “All complaint records, case files, and hearing records shall be maintained according to the Complaint Process Manual. IAU cases may be accessed by IAU personnel or others on a need-to-know basis by permission of the Chief or his/her designee.”
Would better access to internal affairs records prevent situations like the one that led to the death of George Floyd? Maybe.
According to an MPD Internal Affair Public Summary released Tuesday, May 26, Chauvin accumulated 17 complaints and two letters of reprimand during his 19-year career.
However, that disturbing record, which includes a handful of office-related shootings, didn’t prevent Chauvin from policing neighborhoods.
Would knowledge of Chauvin’s personnel record have influenced the other Minneapolis police officers, identified as Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng, to step in as a crowd gathered, documenting Floyd’s death on cellphone videos?
UPDATE: As of noon today, May 29, Chauvin has been arrested and charged with murder.
Recent tragedies, like the losses of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, have had a significant impact across the country. 1099 people were killed by police in 2019 (24% of those killed were Black, despite the fact that only 13% of the population is Black). The country continues to grapple with the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disproportionately affected racial and ethnic minority groups.
Reading the statistics and watching these events of violence against Black citizens, many Toledoans are looking for a way to make a difference and spur local transparency and change.
The Community Solidarity Response Network of Toledo (CSRNT) is a local grassroots activist organization, which formed six years ago in response to the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed Black teenager who was shot by a Ferguson, Missouri police officer. Saturday, May 30, CSRNT will host a Police Accountability March in front of the Toledo Police Department at 3pm.
According to the Facebook Event page, the march and rally is an opportunity to: “Let the police know that we REFUSE to sit quietly as state sanctioned murder of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor goes without prosecution and we DEMAND a change to police contracts to ensure proper justice and accountability is created within our city.”
Additional planned demonstrations include a george floyd / blm protest at noon on Saturday, March 30 at 3225 Secor Rd., near Sonic Drive-In.
Those planning to attend these events are encouraged to wear masks and maintain social distancing guidelines. The American Civil Liberties Union summarizes the rights of protestors or observers, click here and here, including legal and safety information.
Response from area leaders
Some local leaders have publicly condemned the actions of Minneapolis’ Officer Chauvin.
On Thursday morning, TPD Chief George Kral took to Twitter: “There is no explaining the video of the death of George Floyd. The ex officer who did this act and the ones that did nothing to stop it must be held accountable for their actions and inactions. Mr. Floyd’s death is inexcusable and negatively represents law-enforcement everywhere.”
This morning, Friday, May 29, Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz tweeted: “The video of the death of George Floyd made me sick to my stomach, and in the days since, I’ve been struggling to express the sadness in my heart.”
While words of grief express recognition, a path to change, like that sought by the CSRNT and other Toledoans, will be more complicated.
“A very difficult time”
“This is a very difficult time to be Black. This is a very difficult time in America, and it’s a very difficult time to be online and on social media,” said Toledo activist, organizer and CSRNT member Julian Mack during the Thursday evening #TogetherUnited podcast.
Co-host, Ruth Leonard, echoed the sentiment: “I have not watched the George Floyd video because I just got over the Ahmaud Arbery video. I had just calmed down from all of the chaos that was the Breanna Taylor case. So I’m just taking a moment to make sure that I am mentally and emotionally ready to watch (the George Floyd video)”
“I believe that our best solutions come from the people who are experiencing the pain… so we are organizing here locally,” said Mack. “The direct call and demands of [CSRNT] are for accountability with the Toledo Police Department,” referring to the TPD union contract, which erases misconduct records after 2-5 years (section 2129.26.D), limits oversight/discipline (section 2129.15), restricts/delays interrogations (section 2129.19.D), and disqualifies anonymous complaints (section 2129.19.F). “The way that the TPD (union contract) functions, (there are) several blocks to accountability,” said Mack.
The Community Solidarity Response Network of Toledo meets at 6pm every Tuesday at the Padua Center (1416 Nebraska Ave.). To learn more about the Police Accountability March at 3pm on Saturday, May 30, visit the Facebook Event page here.